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What Does it Mean to be a Risk Taker

Updated on June 15, 2010

Are you a Risk Taker?

Has anyone ever told you, "You can't change. People don't change." If so, have you dared that same person not to change? It's impossible.

Change is one thing that is every bit as certain as death, and even more certain than taxes. You cannot avoid it. Sure, some of your primary characteristics remain the same - eye color, sex, fondness for foods, core beliefs, general temperament, etc., you are going to change.

Your weight, health, income, many tastes, friendships and relationships, and perhaps most noticeably - your age - all will change with time. Change is part of living within the time and space continuum. Even those things that you are charged with being unable to change, poor grammar, an ill temper or other troublesome habits, will change with practice, patience and time.

Another constant in our lives - in line with death, taxes, and habits we would like to rid ourselves of - is adversity.

Change and adversity are the primary factors that present us with risk. Except that things change and/or go other than as we want, we do not face risk. Risk is a function of making choices for dealing with change and adversity. We tend to say that the greater the potential for change or adversity to be overcome, the greater the risk.

And, we tend to think of a risk taker as one who will confront risk by choosing the affirmative mode of taking it on rather than passively allowing the changes and adversity to come and go and accept their results.

In the English language, we've developed quite a dichotomy to distinguish between behaviors and choices we perceive as "risk taking" and those we view as "risk avoiding:

Risk Taker Risk Avoider

action inaction

entrepreneur worker

gambler spectator

derivatives money markets

And so it goes. But are these categories truly indicative of risk taking? Actually, I think not. Here's why.

Consider the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Many would consider him to be among the most intelligent, most capable of lawyers in his generation, if not among the most intelligent of all our citizens. Yet, what of his choice to pursue a career in the judiciary rather than as an attorney or entrepreneur?

Does this make him a risk taker or risk avoider? Certainly it could be argued both ways. But because change and adversity face all of us, it is clear that whatever choice he made, he was taking some risk.

Risk is about opportunity cost, and there is risk in every choice we make. The degree of risk is dictated by the level of change and potential adversity anticipated in the decision that had to be made, but the decision itself cannot avoid risk - it can merely approach it from a different perspective.

For example, if you leap off a cliff, anyone would consider your behavior to be very risk taking if considered in a vacuum. But what if you are equipped with a hang glider that you have used many times, and furthermore, what if a rhinoceros was charging toward you at a high rate of speed? Now which behavior is more risky?

My grandmother was one of the dearest, sweetest people I have ever known. She took care of her health, was unpresumptuous and kept her home and finances in order. Generally this is considered to be a rather risk averse lifestyle. But what does that mean?

My grandfather died in his mid-50's, leaving my grandmother a widow. She lived into her mid-90's and never remarried. All of her children were grown and she spent of those years living in a retirement community, and finally, a nursing home.

I wonder, were her choices really risk free? Again, I think not.

Every decision involves risk - often "risk avoidance" is a misnomer for "decision avoidance" - but change will come regardless.

Don't be afraid to make decisions - and don't be afraid to be wrong! All you can do is think through the horizon of possibilities you can foresee, and make the best choices for you.

Take on your decisions with purpose, and you won't regret it being unafraid to "take some risk".


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      medhanie kiflom 4 years ago

      best one. well put!